In our first interview with James about his record-breaking expedition, which saw him bag each Wainwright in two weeks, we learned the ups and downs of everything he encountered during his challenge. Our second interview delves deeper (into his rucksack) as we identify the secret to his success, as he talks all things lightweight camping kit.
So you had to carry everything on your back – what did your backpack weigh?
The base weight of my backpack was 6,648g, which I was really pleased with. This came in slightly lighter than what American thru-hikers call the magical 15lb base weight (6.8kg). My 6.6kg weight included the following items:
- 60L backpack and waterproof pack liner
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- One-person backpacking tent
- Toiletries bag and first aid kit
- Thermal pyjamas
- Cooking stove, pot and 230g gas canister
- 2L water bottle and filter
- 2 x power banks (20,000mAh) and charging wires
- Personal locator beacon
- Waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers
- Insulated jacket
With two days of food and 2L of water, my backpack weighed around 10kg or slightly heavier, depending on the exact quantities of food carried.
How did you keep the weight of your backpack down?
I kept the weight down by adopting a minimalist approach. I didn’t carry any changes of clothes, for example, and left numerous optional items – cap, hat, gloves, cup, pillow, deodorant and many more - at home. Prior to packing, I asked myself: “do I really need this piece of kit?” and “could I cope without it?” – this helped me to weed out any non-essential items. It’s very easy to over-pack. To avoid this pitfall, I laid out everything I thought I needed, and then axed anything that seemed surplus to requirements. A classic mistake is thinking ‘I’ll take this just in case’. I ditched anything that was a ‘just in case’ item.
My other key tactic was simply to pack high quality, ultralight gear. I saved a lot of weight by upgrading older, cheaper and heavier kit for ultralight kit. My one-person tent, for example, weighed just 900g, a massive saving compared to the 2.4kg Vango Banshee 200 I used a few years ago. My cooking set-up was just 143g (a JetBoil Flash weighs 371g, for example), and my sleeping system clocked in at just 800g, including mat and bag (my old sleeping bag weighed over 2kg).
Another strategy was to find innovative ways to double up the uses of items. Anything that could be classed as multi-functional was a big positive and saved weight. For example, rather than carry a camping pillow, if I stuffed my down jacket into a dry bag, it worked pretty well as a makeshift pillow. Likewise, rather than carrying a separate mug or cup for my morning coffee, I simply drank out of my cooking pot. A buff is a great lightweight, multi-functional option too – one buff can replace a cap, woolly hat and neck warmer.
Do you have any other tips for hikers interested in going lightweight?
Here’s 13 other ideas:
1. Carry less water – instead filter as you go
2. Wear lightweight trail running shoes – and ditch the bulky, heavy, high-ankled boots
3. Try a sleeping quilt – it’ll be lighter than and just as comfy as a traditional sleeping bag
4. Cut out labels from your clothes and excess straps from your backpack – every little helps
5. Embrace being feral – don’t worry about a fresh t-shirt or underwear
6. No cotton – choose lightweight, synthetic materials for your apparel instead
7. No stove – for pro level weight-saving, just eat cold food
8. Halve your toothbrush – it’ll save a few grams
9. Go minimalist – do you really need that Kindle or iPod? Nature is your entertainment now
10. The big three – invest in an ultralight sleeping bag, pad and tent, that’s the easiest way to save grams
11. Ditch the tent – could you use a bivvy or tarp instead?
12. Pack for the season – don’t take a heavy winter sleeping bag in spring/summer
13. Wear your down jacket in bed – this can enable you to carry a lighter sleeping bag